Montessori presents lessons of Grace and Courtesy along with those
of Practical Life. This is, of course, understandable as social skills
should ideally help to oil the wheels of social living and should, in fact
spring from the heart.
The exercises of Grace and Courtesy are especially important in preserving
culture in the different nations to which Montessori is called. The special
courtesies of each new country to which we take our philosophy should reflect
that particular culture and should not be imported by us from our own culture.
This should be true also of practical life exercises. These are two areas
in which we must take great pains to reflect the best of each world culture.
Between the ages of 2 1/2 -6, the child is indeed in a sensitive period
for the learning of good manners. Montessori comments that "a master
of ceremonies at a big court or an ecclesiastical function could not be
more exact or exacting" about the right way of doing things. She points
out also that if we leave this learning to a later age, the special and
spontaneous interest will not be there.
At the beginning of establishing a class, there is need to concentrate
on grace and courtesy exercises, along with the exercises, along with the
exercises of practical life, in order to establish what Montessori calls
the "right rapport" between the children and their environment.
The essential thing here is that the child should never be coerced to these
courtesies or reprimanded when he forgets, but that he should know how
to perform these actions when his heart prompts him to do so.
This instruction in courtesy will be given over a considerable period
of time and should include such things as the following:
How to sit down and stand up properly
How to greet people, using titles of respect when indicated
How to excuse oneself when passing in front of someone
How to interrupt when necessary
How to open and shut a door quietly
How to hand objects to another person, especially sharp objects like
scissors or knives
The following is one sample lesson. The others need to be given as
the need arises or the occasion presents itself. These lessons are given
over time and the teacher should be constantly aware of the fact that this
is a sensitive period for grace and courtesy.
This is a group lesson, as are all of the lessons of grace and courtesy.
The teacher can invite two children to demonstrate the lesson with her.
"Mary Jones and Peter Rogers don't know each other. so the polite
thing for me to do is to introduce them." The teacher turns to the
girl and says, "Mary, this is Peter Rogers. Peter, this is Mary Jones."
She can say to the children, "You know already how to greet each other,
so perhaps you would like to do that. The children shake hands and say,
The teacher then asks the children, "Would one of you children
now like to introduce these children to each other? We'll pretend that
they don't know each other." Or we might try saying, "You have
brought a friend with you whom I don't know. So you bring the friend up
to introduce to me. 'Miss Baldwin, this is my friend Alice Davis . Alice,
this is my teacher, Miss Baldwin.'"
Any children who would like to practice can come up and do so.
Dr. Montessori stated that with these exercises we are helping by placing
within the environment "motives of activity" designed especially
to answer the needs of this sensitive period through which the child is
passing. He not only has an intense interest in these purposeful movements
but is endowed with a special capacity for retaining them and making them
habitual with an ease and spontaneity which never recurs.